Monday, April 9, 2018

Social Learning Platforms in the Classroom?

Yes, social learning platforms are in my classrooms (face-to-face, blended, and online) and have been part of my teaching methodology since 2011 or so.  I personally got online around 2008 not too long after social media started getting popular among the business community.  My first blog was actually on my original website (although clunky) because I remember writing a blog post about my very first Facebook post featuring my kids.  Of course, it took me a couple years to master all the start ups and I think twitter became a favorite in 2009 or 2010.  I remember, many of my SHRM friends showed me how to use twitter at conferences.  Twitter which is where I have my strongest following currently with just under 20k unique followers (no purchased lists - wouldn't even think of doing that).  In those early days, it seems like the Human Resource community was among the first to adopt the technology even though many of their employers were still strongly forbidding the use of any type of social media in the office mostly because they didn't understand it and though it was a huge waste of time.  Depending on how it is used, it certainly can be a huge waste of time but what I try to do is show students how and why to use it professionally.

I must admit, I do get some glares and sometimes unexpected reactions to my "twitter", "linked in" and "blogging" assignments when introduced at the beginning of the semester. Actually, all the social assignments are rolled up into one "Social Learning" aspect of the course.

Some words used to describe initial reactions to the assignments were: skeptical, resistant, inapplicable, not a social media user, not enthused, uninterested, and not open-minded.

After the grumbling about "so much extra work" in my class in the first few weeks, I begin to see a shift in attitude, writing, and understanding of the practical side of HR.  You see, most classrooms are assigned a text which is typically written by an academic professional who has dedicated their life to research and teaching.  Occasionally, you might find a text where a practicing professional is a co-editor but the text is still highly theoretically focused.  While it is important for students to learn the theory, they really need to understand how to practice and apply what they are learning which is why I incorporate ways they can learn from the professionals who are doing the job day in and day out. So in my class students get a mix of theory and practice.  The social learning assignments give them a chance to hear directly from those practitioners by reading blog posts, listening to podcasts, or taking assessments they can apply to their own lives.

While I'd like to eventually do a more thorough study on this topic, here is just a glimpse at what some of the students are saying in my own words during their summary reflection related to the assignment:

  • They are surprised that so much information is available by so many professionals in other fields besides HR.
  • They realize they can use these platforms for continued knowledge beyond the classroom especially if they want to get a job in or continue working in HR.
  • They have had an opportunity to build connections because of the assignment requirements and in one case a student actually got an internship that she felt never would have happened if she did not get the assignment.
  • Many had never thought of using a podcast to learn something new.  Most had never even listened to a podcast before this class.
  • If I had to guess about 9 out of 10 of my students really enjoyed the option to learn about HR this way.  Some have even decided to go into HR because of what they learned.
  • Some students began looking forward to the assignment each week and found the various assigned platforms interesting.  The assignment changed from week to week and once on a particular platform the student could chose a topic that interested them.
  • Students also liked the convenience of this type of learning such as listening to podcasts on their drive to and from work or flipping through the classroom hashtag while waiting at a doctors office.  
Like I said this is just a short list.  I hope to do more research at a later date but suffice it to say, I think this assignment is worthwhile regardless of what students think at the beginning.  Some words used describing the students reaction to learning on social media platforms: plethora of information, cutting edge ideas, beneficial, enjoyed, helpful, interesting, engaging, well-rounded learning experience, changed opinions about social media, and relevant.


Friday, February 9, 2018

#MeToo Focus in the Caribbean

The morning after a day in Jamaica starts off with a bang in Julie Pugh's session covering Harassment in the Headlines most recently refenced by hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp.  Her session was titled Have Your Life Jacket Handy: The HR Professional's Role in Addressing Pre-Lawsuit Procedures. Whew! That's a mouthful! However, being prepared is a big deal and deserves our attention, understanding, and consideration to avoid a mouthful of curse words (quietly of course) when you get handed your first EEOC complaint or lawsuit.  Believe me, they are not fun to deal with!

I have personally had my share of harassment (especially sexual) complaints during my tenure in HR.  So far this year, I have delivered a couple of programs as well as conducted a couple of investigation and it's only February! The stories I could tell would make you wonder what type of work is actually being done in the workplace.  Matter of fact, I shared one of them in the session that helped Julie make her point about other types of complaints you can get besides harassment.  The one I shared was constructive discharge and sexual harassment. 

What I found new and interesting in this session is to look at documentation related to the topic and remove things like the word "confidential". For example: Don't tell employees in person or in harassment policies that their conversation or complaint will remain confidential.  Why? Because it won't! You can't keep it confidential.  Again, why? Because you may have to conduct interviews, talk to management, attorney's, etc.

So, what can you say or write instead on using the word confidential?
      • Say we will be "discreet", or
      • We will only share on a "need to know basis"
In addition, Julie mentioned an example of a time she was conducting training when someone in the room asked for a definition of an inappropriate behavior.  She redirected the question to make a point about how managers need to be constantly vigilant about what is discussed in the workplace while another manager got up and demonstrated the inappropriate behavior in front of the whole group.  She politely took the person to the side to have a private conversation about how inappropriate her demonstration was and how that type of reaction and attitude is exactly what they are trying to avoid in the workplace.  I can't tell you how many times employees and managers have taken pot shots at some of the main points of a harassment awareness training I was conducting.  What a great lesson on how to deal with those outbursts. 

Constant vigilance and awareness of surroundings was a key suggestions Julie shared.  As an example: she mentioned the timely resignation of Steve Wynn, Chairman & CEO, of Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macua due to sexual misconduct allegations he denies.  This occurred after we set sail from Fort Lauderdale.  It seems something about this topic is coming out weekly these days.  It's sad that it's not a surprise.  

Continue to educate staff and management about the importance of this topic from a risk management standpoint.  Most importantly, prevention is key and communication is key to prevention.

Finally, I should mention that Julie's employer where she is Partner, Graydon was one of the sponsors for #HRCruise2018 - thank you Graydon & Julie!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Workplace Wellness Takes SAIL

It's Showtime at sea for attendees of the 1st Annual #HRCruise heading to Haiti and Jamaica.  After a great opening session by Greg Hawks, the first session of the week began with Brad and Suzanna Cooper with US Corporate Wellness.  They have walked attendees through a well thought out, detailed and thoughtful presentation about what corporate wellness should look like.  In my experience wellness programs have been very narrowed.  For example, when I first started my career, there was a $100 prize for the employee who lost the greatest percentage of weight.  I was only 23 at the time without a great deal of other influences buying for my time.  It was a cinch.  I won! I went out and bout a brand new suit to wear to work with my winnings.  I was excited, proud and focused.  I had willpower.

However, the wellness program was only focused on one thing, weight loss. A strategically planned program will consider so much more like smoking, stress, spirit, mental, physical, exercise, sleep, and so much more.  Sleep today is a huge thing for me.  The light bulb when off when I heard Brad say that without a good nights sleep, I have over a 40% chance of eating junk food in the afternoon.  He was right, I know what I need to eat or drink.  I am a Weight Watcher (recently rejoined) for gods sake.  I know I don't get good sleep and knowing this helps me understand at least one reason why I am constantly sabotaging my success towards my weight loss goal.  

There are so many other great takeaways from this great speaking duo and as I write this blog post, brad asked everyone starting with me to speak out about their one takeaway.  So I typed them up for your to review here. 

Takeaways from the attendee's: 
  • Increase communication of wellness initiative as an ongoing process
  • Tailor your message to your audience such as generation ally different employees
  • Creating lasting and meaning full change in wellness - not a one time shot like my personal example above
  • Try-in, Buy-in ~ Let employees try something to help
  • Focus on the individual - one size does not fit all
  • Tracking what I want to be a year from now and track progress towards that goal
  • Scarlett Letter - you don't have to be perfect on your wellness journal
  • Corporate Social Responsibility tie into wellness
  • Even if your good about exercise in the morning but sit a lot at work doesn't give you a free pass
  • Never use any phone sitting down - get up and move
  • Being intentional
  • Maslow's Hierarchy of needs - Top is now Social Media
  • You are all so sexy, I want to be you!
  • It's just not fitness and food...it's about so much more like Financial Wellness
  • Create ways to have impact without intrusion
  • Mini SWOT analysis of individual company specific wellness programs
  • Wellness Wheel
  • Traveling trophy in the office when teams win challenges
  • Utilization Review of programs 
  • Wellness coaching & EAPs
It's showtime! What are you going to do to improve your overall wellness program?

Thanks for the corporate sponsor of this event which can actually be a great incentive option for wellness programs: Corporate Traditions - a company that allows you to let your employees pick their favorite gifts.

#HRCruise2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bereavement Leave FAILs When it Comes to Flexibility

The following was originally posted on the WomenofHR site on 7/14/15. I am reposting here because I will be referring to it in upcoming presentation where I have done some additional research around this topic of Bereavement Leave. My mission is to change the minds of management around the world to improve their culture so that employees feel more comfortable taking the time off they need to "do the work" as you will see in my story below as well as "grieve" which is not a simple 3-5 day process! More to come on this topic in upcoming posts. Thank you in advance for reading and sharing!

Bereavement Leave Fail from Women of HR

When you’re managing employees and they have a death in the family of someone who has been sick for a while and they have made you aware of the situation, what do you do? Worse yet, what do you do when an employee calls you on their way out of town to tell you that their brother was killed the night before by a hit and run driver? They continue to tell you the reason they are heading out of town immediately, before any funeral plans are announced, is that their brother’s wife is in critical condition in the hospital. The oldest daughter of her sister-in-law who is dealing with the loss herself and worrying about the condition of her mother needs help. The employee has no idea when the funeral will be, let alone where her brother’s body is at the moment, and what will come of the criminal case surrounding the hit and run. What do you do when you take a look at the bereavement leave policy and it says “up to 3 or 5 days,” depending on location of the funeral and how close the deceased is to the employee?

Well this very thing happened to me, but luckily I didn’t really have a boss to report to other than cancelling one of the classes I was scheduled to teach and holding it online instead of in person. Thankfully, I had an independent contractor I could lean on for my outstanding consulting projects. I’m not saying things didn’t get lost in the shuffle because I did miss responding to emails and phone calls for a couple months due to trying to stay caught up with what is current when I finally got back. Had I been working a job that restricted the amount of time I took off, I am sure in many cases my job would be in jeopardy or gone upon my return. Since my brother was dead, I would not have had Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to fall back on either. My sister-in-law doesn’t fall on the covered list of “immediate family members,” plus she had her kids to take care of her. So the boss would have had their hands tied on what flexibility they could lend to this horrible situation. Even the military exigency leave would not have been applicable, even though my brother did retire with over 20 years of service to the US Air Force.

The long and short of it is that I was actually out of commission, so to speak, for about three weeks. Out of commission for me is that I physically was not able to be present for a typical bricks and mortar 9-5 job, but I did work while I was away through mobile devices, and was able to keep up with the critical parts of my jobs as instructor and consultant. The problem is most employees don’t have that flexibility nor do their managers understand the intricate details of what the employee is going through. That is why I am writing this post because I too would never have understood an employee having to be away for that long without actually having gone through it myself. Perhaps if managers read this they will have an open mind and open heart to what the employee is going through. A paradigm shift, if you will.

You see the following had to be done, and was done, with the help of my niece and nephew primarily:
  • Visit sister-in-law to see how she was doing and what I could do to help (repeat daily with updates) 
  • Find the body and get permission to have it sent post autopsy to the funeral home 
  • Visit the crash site to see how this happened in person and collect personal belongings thrown all around the site due to the vehicle flipping 
  • Since the driver had not come forward, have a sign made and erected along the edge of the highway near the crash site asking for information 
  • Participate in TV interviews and share them on social media to help get the word out about the vehicle the authorities were looking for based on eye witness accounts of the incident 
  • Visit his workplace to get details going regarding final check, insurance, retirement and pick up his personal belongings 
  • Research how to obtain a copy of the autopsy needed for the insurance and get his wife’s signature and fax 
  • Meet with the funeral home to set up the local funeral, service back home, and burial back home (with many calls and email follow-ups) 
  • Pick up his uniform and take to the dry cleaner then to the funeral home 
  • Stop by the highway patrol office to get copies of accident reports needed for the insurance so the funeral could be paid for 
  • Meet with the district attorney to get permission to obtain his personal belongings from the vehicle at the impound lot 
  • Meet with the state trooper at the impound lot to see the vehicle mangled and retrieve all personal belongings 
  • Research possibilities for transportation of the body from one state to another to include a military escort from the service to the grave site 
  • Keep out-of-town family members up-to-date on progress so they could eventually make flight plans 
  • Coordinate pictures and videos to be taken in all three locations for his widow since she was still in the hospital and could not attend 
  • Go through his personal belongings at his home and garage to bring meaningful memorabilia to the funeral home for the services 
  • Collect pictures from family members representing all 46 of his years to develop a slideshow for the services 
  • Pull music that was meaningful to him for the background of the slide show and edit and reedit (multiple times) to work correctly 
  • Attend the funeral, transport the body, attend the local service and bury him 
  • Return to go through his things with his widow upon her release from the hospital so his garage could be cleaned out and mail sentimental things to his mother, brother and nephew 
Now that is certainly all I can remember now four months out so I am sure I have missed some things. As a manager you must not just see this list as a tactical “to do” list, you have to consider the psychological impact each of these tasks and toll it has on the employee. For weeks I was go, go, go but a couple days after the burial, it finally hit me. He was dead! He was never coming back! His killer is still at large! I couldn’t even get out of bed for two days straight. I had to see a doctor to help me emotionally because it was affecting me physically. Now how much time do you think all this should take? Three to five days is a joke and is not a one size fit all policy that will work for every employee situation.

Thank you for reading and I hope I make a difference in how you see a similar situation in your employee’s future.